October 2nd, 2013

Grey Paint: A Neutral in Interior Design

Grey is the neutral of the day in interior design because of its cool and calming effects. But choosing the right grey paint is not as simple as looking at a swatch and ordering a gallon. It takes time, but a few simple tricks will help you pick the perfect grey paint for your space.

Get Inspired. What shade of grey do you desire for your home? Something that feels organic, like smooth river rock or a pewter metal, or something that carries a bit of color with it? Find your inspiration, whether it’s a fabric swatch or decorative object, and use it as a jumping off point when turning to paint colors.

Get Informed. Swatches or a paint fan deck are the first place to turn when you’re considering a shade of grey for your home. Pick out a few that you’re drawn to and invest in a few samples to try out on the wall or on a large sheet of paper or cardboard attached to the wall. Observing how colors change in the light in the space is essential to choosing the right grey paint.

Get to Know Undertones. The most important thing to note about choosing the right grey is to understand what undertones are present. Most paint colors that are labeled “grey” aren’t a pure grey (meaning a white base with a certain percentage of black present). Often a color will look like pure grey in the store, but it’s not until you compare it with others that you’ll know which one is right for you. You’ll notice the presence of different undertones—some are lavender, others are blue or green, and still others are red or brown. Lavender greys will lean feminine, blue or green greys will act as a neutral providing a subtle hint of color, and a grey that leans taupe (with brown or red undertones) will be warmer than a cool, pure grey. It’s important to see how the paint will partner with existing fabrics and flooring in your home before making your decision.

Compare Undertones

Decide on Depth. Is it a subtle hint of grey you’re after or a darker version you crave for drama? I used ‘Polished Limestone‘ in a guest room recently. The French doors in the space are the only source of light and they face west. Afternoon and evening sun keep the space bright, so a paler version of grey made perfect sense.


Compare the use of a pale grey to a deeper shade. In a recent dining room makeover, the walls were painted in ‘Arrowwood’, a sophisticated charcoal with brown undertones to add dramatic contrast to the white tongue and groove wainscoting.


Testing samples, familiarizing yourself with undertones, and choosing the right depth of a shade to communicate your intent are all tricks for selecting the right grey paint. When you get it right, you’ll be delighted with the result for years to come.

Categories: Color